10 Thoughts On The St. Louis Blues
1. Jake Allen deserves a ton of credit. The swagger he re-instilled came at a huge time (again). Coming off a 0-4-1 home stand, Allen helped sweep a 3-game road trip at Detroit, Calgary, and Vancouver. For some reason he was demoted back to Peoria before Doug Armstrong and Co. recognized how imperative his presence is. Since being recalled he’s 3-0.
The Blues have scored 28 goals in Allen’s seven starts compared to 32 in 11 starts by Jaroslav Halak and 20 goals in six Brian Elliott starts. The team plays on another gear in front of the rookie net minder.
Allen made 39 saves Tuesday in a big regulation win against San Jose, but also allowed two soft goals. I understand Halak needs to play, but Allen deserves the majority of games. Finally, a goaltender stole a game Tuesday
2. The Blues are fighting an identity crisis. Last season a Blues win typically meant a tight defensive oriented game plan. Those days are over. Ken Hitchcock has modestly changed the model with a more offensive approach. The young defensemen are clearly battling growing pains but the change was inevitable. With as much talent the Blues possess, scoring should be a strength.
Elliott and Halak were brilliant a season ago, but they also had a cluster of Blue Notes protecting the cage. I’m confident the Blues can work out the kinks and play a more consistent 60-minute hockey game.
3. Chris Stewart is the only player on the team who can consistently score from outside the comfort zone. Alexander Steen is #2, but Stewart can put pucks in slots goalies had no idea existed. Stewart now has 11 goals after scoring two against the Sharks. Hitchcock commented on his strong 3rd period.
4. T.J. Oshie ran into Sharks defender/winger Brent Burns and immediately went to the bench injured. As he went down the tunnel, Oshie fell to his knees in desperate pain holding his rib area. The Blues are saying he’s day-to-day, but I’m skeptical.
5. When Steen and Andy McDonald return, Hitch has a tough decision to make on Chris Porter. Porter, a former North Dakota Fighting Sioux, seems to have finally translated his ability to the NHL level. He’s physical and fast with a hard shot — though he might not know where it’s going. Steen is very close to returning, and it could happen against Phoenix. Porter’s 2nd period goal deflated a 19-shot assault from San Jose.
6. The Western Conference is a game of musical chairs. One loss, or even a night off can drop a team five slots. Other than Chicago and Anaheim, the West is filled with teams separated by 6 points from 3rd to 14th place.
7. Expect the Phoenix Coyotes to want some revenge Thursday night at the Scottrade Center. The Blues won 6-3 last week in Glendale, with Stewart registering four points.
8. It’s too bad the Blues and Sharks can’t play more…it’s always a good game and the Blues swarm like a nagging fly that keeps winning.
9. This is crunch time for the Blues. They need to finish this stretch of 10 games in 17 nights with a home stand sweep against a strong Pacific division. Guys can’t rely on teammates to make the big play. Be the guy. When Stewart and David Perron play well, the entire team feeds off them. Hitchcock made a good decision dialing back David Backes’ work load because it was clearly too much. This is go time folks.
10. The officiating Tuesday was comical. The 1st period calls were obvious. The next 30 minutes was a free for all. Hold, interfere, board — whatever goes went. Suddenly, the referees blew the whistle three times. High stick against Dan Boyle, holding on Scott Nichol, and boarding on Barret Jackman. The last two gave the Sharks momentum, only to have Allen slam the door.
The problem is the boarding call. Jackman is simply holding his position when the offensive player bends over. The result is inevitable, but when boarding isn’t called until the precious moments of a game it’s a problem. Let them play.
Lastly, what happened to the tightly called interference on defenders chipping a player on a dump in?